Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre (111 W. 46th St., between 6th & 7th Avenues)
If you’re in the mood for an evening of light entertainment, this one-man autobiographical review starring the very charming Jim Dale may be just the ticket.
In a Nutshell: Chances are, if you are of less than “a certain age,” you’re not familiar with British/American star Jim Dale. However, once you get to know him, you’ll be a fan. Far from being “Just” Jim Dale, this versatile performer is a seasoned pro who has achieved success in practically every field of show business.
Mr. Dale is ably accompanied by Mark York, billed as “Mr. Dale’s personal pianist since 2006.” The show is written by Mr. Dale and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
What’s It All About? In Just Jim Dale, the Tony-winning song and dance man shares the personal story of his transformation from little Jimmy Smith in the tiny English town of Rothwell, to performing 14 shows a week in British music halls, an early career as a pop singer, to the Shakespearian stage, and on to great success as Jim Dale.
Dale’s musical hall past serves him well in Just Jim Dale—he has an easy, companionable style that extends over the footlights to directly engage with the audience. And the small size of the Laura Pels makes it the perfect venue for this intimate one-man performance.
Dale has enjoyed an incredibly diverse 60-year career in show business. He has triumphed in film, television, music, theatre, and even audiobooks: he created nearly 150 different voices for all of the characters in the award-winning “Harry Potter” audiobooks series. (If you haven’t listened to the audiobooks you can hear a few examples of those characterizations in Just Jim Dale).
He won a Best Actor Tony in 1980 for his performance in the title role of Barnum, has five Tony nominations, four Drama Desk Awards, and four Outer Critics Circle Awards. Other Broadway performances include Scapino, Joe Egg, Me and My Girl, Candide, and the role of Mr. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera.
And I bet you didn’t know that he penned the lyrics for the Oscar-nominated hit tune “Georgy Girl”. That song (performed by the Seekers) was a huge hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and selling over 7 million records. Dale performs the song in Just Jim Dale (and at least half of the audience left the theatre humming its catchy riff).
Furthermore: Incredibly, Dale is now 78 years old. His years of training as a dancer have served him well: he is whippet thin, as lithe as a gymnast, and has the stamina and flexibility of a man less than half his age. Since most of the audience members at the Pels appeared to be of his generational cohort, they were particularly in awe of his youthful vigor. It was also obvious that many of them had seen Dale in his many New York theatrical appearances. So Dale was performing for his fan base and he delighted in their warm embrace.
– No need for the standard “please turn off your cellphones” pre-show announcement at this production. The audience is treated to a very funny prerecorded (by Dale) explanation of what will happen to anyone whose phone rings during the performance.
– “There’s a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute” from Barnum. It’s a terrific song (by musical great Cy Coleman) and Dale nails it: “Why you can bet I’ll find some rube to buy my corn. Cause there’s a sure-as-shooting sucker born a minute, and I’m referrin’ to the minute you were born.” You’ll see why he won the Tony for his performance.
– “You Think You Haven’t Quoted Shakespeare?” is a witty patter number made up of commonly used snippets from Shakespearian works strung together into sentences. One of the tour de force moments in the show, along with “The Museum Song” from Barnum, another star turn where Dale has an opportunity to show off his ability to deliver a rapid-fire vocal.
– “Georgy Girl.” Who knew Dale wrote those lyrics? “Hey there, Georgy Girl. There’s another Georgy deep inside. Bring out all the love you hide and, oh, what a change there’d be. The world would see a new Georgy Girl.” (How long until you get the song out of your head)?
Should You Go? If you know who Jim Dale is (which probably means you’re over 50) you’ll delight in hearing his picaresque tales, listening to him sing, and watching his “rubber man” dance moves. If you’re a 20- or 30-something with more modern tastes, you may be advised to choose another show.
Caveat: With a run time of only 1 hour, 40 minutes (no intermission), the show seems a bit overlong, even for the most ardent fan.
Trivia: In The Simpsons episode “Lisa the Beauty Queen”, Homer sings a parody of “Georgy Girl”: “Hey there, blimpy boy! Flying through the sky so fancy free!”
Ticket Info: As of this writing, the show runs through August 10. Half-price tickets are frequently available at the TKTS booth in Times Square.